24 September 2021

Anja Ipp (Climate Change Counsel): "All firms should work to raise awareness of climate change"


The Impact Lawyers interviews Anja Ipp, co-founder of Climate Change Counsel, an innovative consultancy that raises awareness among lawyers about the importance of incorporating a climate perspective into their work


1. What is the main purpose of Climate Change Counsel?

Climate Change Counsel is a small consultancy firm focused exclusively on law as an accelerator of the transition to a more climate-friendly society. Our idea is to assist companies, the public sector, NGOs and foundations in their climate work, by providing legal research and analysis, project support and other services. We started Climate Change Counsel as a way of using our commercial law experience to contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change.

One of our goals is to inspire other lawyers to bring the climate perspective to every project, transaction or client meeting. Lawyers can play a key role in mitigating the climate crisis. Think about it – lawyers have the power to shape economic transactions, to include conditions and obligations in contracts, and to put demands on suppliers. Lawyers interpret legislation, enforce contracts and commitments, and resolve disputes. And they influence the policies and actions of their clients, whether small companies or large multinational corporations. If more lawyers across all practice groups brought a climate perspective to work, it could have a tremendous impact


2. How do you support and collaborate on legal projects?

We serve as consultants to companies and organizations, and as subcontractors to law firms who do not have climate law expertise in-house. Our work ranges from providing research and analysis, or monitoring legal developments in foreign jurisdictions, to providing trainings or seminars for executives and in-house legal departments. 

With the support of philanthropic grants, we also conduct our own projects where we see a particular gap or need. This may be a study to map the effect of a particular law or international agreement on energy transition, or a campaign to mobilize other lawyers in the fight against climate change. We try to take every opportunity to speak or write on climate law and the role of lawyers in mitigating climate change, especially in contexts or settings where nobody else is raising that perspective. 


3. Could you describe a project in which Climate Change Counsel is involved currently?

We were recently engaged by the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance to conduct a study of arbitration awards in investor-state disputes under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) – a multilateral investment treaty that encourages and protects investments in the energy sector. The ECT is somewhat controversial because it provides the same protection to all energy investments, regardless of whether the energy source is renewable or fossil-based. By interviewing stakeholders and reviewing the jurisprudence under the treaty, we will assess if and how arbitral tribunals weigh the treaty’s investor protections against the host state’s climate policies and commitments. We plan to release some initial findings in conjunction with COP26 in early November, with a final report to follow early 2022. 


4. Is there an awareness among lawyers and law firms in relation to climate issues?

We are based in Sweden, where climate ambitions are generally high – in government, the business community and among the general population. Even so, it’s our impression that most Swedish lawyers still approach climate change and decarbonization as isolated issues of environmental law. Globally, relatively few law firms have dedicated practice groups for climate law or otherwise indicate to clients through their websites that they provide climate-related legal services. Some but definitely not all bar associations promote climate law initiatives or offer regular courses on climate law for their members. 

We believe this needs to change. If the world is to meet the climate goals – most countries have now committed to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier – all lawyers must play a proactive and engaged role in accelerating the transition. This was best said by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, speaking recently to the members of the American Bar Association: “You are all climate lawyers now, whether you want to be or not,” he said. “We need your skills, your expertise, and hard work to lay the legal pathways and to expedite our progress.” We couldn’t agree more. 


5. What steps and policies could a law firm take on climate issues without spending a lot of money?

Everyone needs to invest time and resources in tackling climate change – individuals, companies, governments, and law firms. The global climate goals are slowly being enshrined into binding laws on the national (and EU) levels, which means that all companies and organizations will need to measure, reduce and report their carbon footprints. Some may even need to rethink their business models. This can be an incredible opportunity for law firms that have invested in building their human and intellectual capital to assist their clients in this transition. 

At a minimum, and without too much cost, all firms should work to raise awareness of climate change and the Net Zero transition across practice groups. By fairly simple means, a firm can ensure that its lawyers have a basic understanding of the legal and regulatory frameworks developing in response to climate change, and how this will affect the firm’s clients. Another option for law firms is to create a partnership with another firm, or with a consultancy like Climate Change Counsel that can provide specialized climate-related services.


6. What challenges does Climate Change Counsel currently face?

There are endless issues and questions at the intersection of climate change and the law – our challenge right now is to prioritize and focus our efforts on a select few of those issues in order to achieve the greatest impact. We are still a relatively young firm, and as our portfolio grows, we expect that capacity will be another challenge. But this is something we welcome, because many skilled lawyers have already reached out to express an interest in working with us. When we grow, so does our impact. In the end, that’s what our work is all about. 

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